East Meets West


Composers of all persuasions have long been inspired to incorporate foreign sounds into their compositions. With Dim Sum, the excellent Ying Quartet offers an inviting stylistic smorgasbord of short works blending timbres and techniques from traditional Chinese music with a Western string quartet.

The Ying Quartet is made up of four Chinese-American siblings. There are several particularly striking morsels from featured Chinese-American composers, including Chen Yi's "Shuo," in which hauntingly lyrical melodies from the violin and viola unfold over a trembling cello bass before melting into moments of exuberant fiddling. Zhou Long's colorful "Song of the Ch'in" evokes an ancient, zither like plucked instrument.

The Telarc release also highlights intriguing works by established composers such as Bright Sheng and Tan Dun and three world premieres from lesser known composers, including Ge Gan-ru's "Fu," an avant-garde work of startling sonorities and Vivian Fung's kaleidoscopic, vivacious "Pizzicato for String Quartet." Lei Liang's intense "Gobi Gloria" features evocative Mongolian folk tunes and aptly evokes traditions such as throat singing and shaman rituals. Chou Wen-chung's "Leggeriezza and Larghetto nostalgico" is a fascinating mélange of Western compositional techniques and Chinese timbres.

This disc illustrates just how well musical border bashing can work when intelligently conceived and performed with such virtuosic passion. Dim Sum also proves that buffet samplers can be much more satisfying than one stodgy main course.